By: Jen Gerasimas
November 5, 2021
a variety of processed and sugary foods

Processed Foods Part 2: What to Eat and How Often


Knowing why highly processed and sugary drinks and foods aren’t good to consume on a regular basis, can lead us to wonder how often we should have certain types of foods and drinks. Read on to see a comprehensive list of what foods and drinks are best to consume daily, occasionally, and rarely.

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We started this 3-part series on processed and sugary foods by discussing whether they were really that bad and how they impact our health and our bodies. What products those are exactly and whether some are better than others can be a source of confusion. So in this part of the series, let’s clear all that up.

Some people don’t like the idea of calling certain foods “good” and others foods “bad”. But we have to categorize food somehow so people have an idea of what is healthy to eat and what is not. You need to know what will cause you to gain weight and increase your risk for medical conditions versus foods and drinks that will help you maintain a healthy weight and greatly reduce your chance of premature death. 

When we think of items we consume that are highly processed and sugary, we must also consider the beverages because they are one of the biggest sources of artificial sugar we consume regularly.

I am dividing foods and drinks into three categories, which can also be known as green, yellow, and red foods. 

Eat daily = Green 

Eat occasionally = Yellow 

Eat rarely = Red

These go from least processed and sugary to most. Best quality to poorest.

Now, if you have done a food elimination diet before or have been tested for food allergies or sensitivities, what I might list as a Green food here could be a Yellow or Red food for you. So, these designations are not law. 

If you have a question about a food or beverage I have not listed here, email me. I’ll let you know where it stands and add it to the list. 

Green: Eat daily

This is a list of foods and beverages you can safely consume as often as you would like. They are the highest quality foods. The natural medicine your body needs. You will probably not be surprised by this list as they are the foundation for an awesome, healthy eating lifestyle. 


  • Vegetables: fresh and frozen

  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, or dried with no added sugar

  • Legumes: beans and lentils

  • Grains: whole oats, quinoa, barley, rice, and corn (especially organic)


  • Meat: chicken, pork, lean beef, bison, lamb, turkey, and wild game

  • Seafood: fish, shellfish

  • Other proteins: eggs, plain greek yogurt, tempeh, hummus


  • Oils and other cooking fats: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, ghee, and real butter

  • Dressing and marinades: with ‘Green’ oils

  • Seeds: chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame

  • Nuts: walnut, cashews, pistachios, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio, macadamia, and peanuts (technically not a nut)

  • Nut butters: natural with no added oils or sugar

  • Others: coconut, olives, avocados, guacamole


  • Water

  • Black coffee 

  • Black and herbal teas

  • Canned coconut milk

  • Coconut water

Yellow: Eat Occasionally

When I say ‘eat occasionally’, I am talking about only having these foods once or twice a week. They are processed but either not as highly processed and/or made with better quality sugars and oils. They don’t need to be the primary part of your daily, even weekly, nutrition. Food in this section can be part of that good treat or two for the week.


  • Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, monk sugar, agave, molasses

  • Bread products made from whole sprouted grains and seeds

  • Breakfast foods: granola made from Green and Yellow foods, instant oatmeal

  • Pastas: made from beans such as chickpeas or lentils

  • Snacks: popcorn, crackers not made from refined wheat

  • Flours: almond, coconut, whole wheat 

  • Sauces: made with no sugar added


  • Meats: medium lean meats, minimally processed lean deli meat. Jerky, bacon, and sausage of good quality.

  • Other proteins: tofu, edamame, cottage cheese, quality protein bars


  • Chocolate: dark chocolate made with quality sugars and fats

  • Desserts: made from Green and Yellow foods

  • Dairy: Sweetened greek yogurt, quality cheeses, sour cream


  • Milk, whole preferably

  • Heavy cream

  • Milk alternatives: almond, coconut, soy

  • Fruit juice made from 100% juice

  • Alcohol, not made with artificial sweeteners

Red: Eat Rarely

For these red foods and drinks, consider consuming one to two times a month or better yet, rarely ever. They are the most processed, unhealthy, inflammatory things to have. Consider these foods this way--if you can find it or something similar in a gas station, your body wasn’t made to have it. To point out those few exceptions some of you might note to prove me wrong, yes sometimes you will find fresh fruit, plain nuts, and water at a gas station, but pretty much everything else is… I’ll be blunt about it...junk. And also, those “healthier” versions of junk food are still junk food. 


  • Breads: loaf bread, rolls, buns, tortillas, and other bread products made from white grains

  • Artificial sweeteners and syrups: pancake syrup, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners in packets  

  • Vegetables: anything breaded or fried

  • Fruit: canned or dried with added sweeteners

  • Condiments: jellies, jams, sauces, spreads made with Red oils and sweeteners

  • Desserts: cakes, pies, ice cream, cookies, pastries made with processed flour, oils listed, and sugar listed

  • Snacks: candy, pretzels, chips, poor quality protein bars, crackers, snack mix, veggie straws

  • Breakfast: donuts, bagels, non-greek sweetened yogurt, cereal, flavored instant oatmeal

  • Boxed items: pastas, instant noodles, flavored rice, cake, cookie, and other dessert mixes


  • Meats: fried meats, fast food burgers, hot dogs, processed deli meats

  • Meatless: processed soy, soy burgers

  • Other proteins: egg mix


  • Oils & “butters”: canola, vegetable, soybean, safflower, sunflower, shortening, corn, peanut, margarine, or any other fake ‘butter’ spread

  • Bottled dressings and marinades: those made with Red oils

  • Cheese: processed cheese, cheese dips, cheese sticks, 

  • Nut butters: with added oils or sugar

  • Chocolate: milk and white

  • Poor quality pizza - most frozen and delivery brands


  • Energy drinks, all sodas, juice not 100% juice, flavored milk and creamers, drink mixes, cocktails made with artificial sweeteners

How does your current nutrition compare?

What category do the foods you eat and drink come from? Be honest with yourself. 

Some of you may see this list and be thinking, I have a lot to work on and are uncertain where to start to make a change. Or maybe you have tried to make a change in the past, but it didn’t last. I won’t leave you hanging.

In the final part of this series, I’ll discuss how to make the changes necessary to create a sustainable healthy lifestyle. We’ll talk about how to shift your eating from mostly Red foods and drinks to Green foods and drinks so you can create a sustainable, healthy eating plan. 

I am excited to help you make the change,



healthy eating, nutrition, processed foods

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